Remains of October fire cleared in downtown Forks
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Construction crews level the site that once was occupied by the former Odd Fellows hall and an adjacent store building. -- Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — The charred mess that scarred the center of this often-rainy town for more than two months vanished on a day when the sun was bright with promise.

Until Friday, the two blackened hulks on North Forks Avenue were all that remained of an early morning Oct. 29 fire that destroyed the city-owned former International Order of Odd Fellows hall and former Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store, owned by an Alaskan company.

A demolition crew from D&H Enterprises of Forks finished tearing down the remains of the structures Friday, then graveled and leveled the property, making it presentable
for a new beginning, City Attorney Rod Fleck said.

“We have a clear lot on a sunny day, and now we can go forward and start the process with the insurance company and the public process,” Fleck said, referring to deciding what will take the IOOF hall’s place.

The two empty lots may have to stay vacant until mid-2014, Fleck said.

No one was injured in the blaze, which was determined to be electrical in origin.

But the conflagration left the town without its cherished Rainforest Art Center and a well-established Latin-themed grocery, both of which were housed in the IOOF hall, as well as the building next door that housed Dazzled by Twilight, which for many decades was Olympic Pharmacy, then Fern Gallery.

“We’re probably looking at the first week or two in February on working out a public process on the issue of replacing what was lost,” Fleck said.

“The big hurdle was making sure we could get the other stuff cleaned up.”

The Dazzled by Twilight building and land, which were for sale when the structure was destroyed, is owned by Alaska Financial Co. of Anchorage.

The IOOF hall and property were insured by the city for $3.7 million.

The initial phase of the insurance company’s valuation of the site should be completed by about the end of this month when the company establishes an initial estimate.

The city will review the figure and respond, and the company will determine a final value, Fleck said.

“That process should take until the end of March,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city will continue on a two-pronged path to determine the site’s future.

Peninsula College has offered to facilitate determining what the community wants at the site.

The city also is working with the University of Washington School of Environment and Forestry Sciences.

The university views the site as a potential location for a pilot project that would highlight Northwest timber products and how they comply with sustainable building requirements, Fleck said.

“Those are all the things we are trying to track down and chase to the ground,” he added.

Fleck said there are too many steps the city must go through to be able to build a new structure by this summer.

They include a public participation period and a six-week public bidding process before a contract is even awarded.

“We would be hopeful that if we decide to rebuild and replace, we would be able to go out to bid later this year and construction would occur in the spring or summer the following year, but we have to see,” Fleck said.

Alaska Financial also is assessing its options, he added.

“They’d like to see a return on their investment,” Fleck said.

“We have a fresh slate down here, so now we have to figure out what can happen,” he added.

“I heard people already in town say it looks so nice to have that corner cleared up,” Fleck said.

“So there is that sense of relief and gratitude with the job the contractor did.

“He went in there with gusto and tried to get it done as quickly as he could.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 12. 2013 5:52PM
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